GCSE Exam Trends – Why Are Maths Tutors In Demand?

The GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) examinations are taken by most pupils at the end of compulsory school education (year 11) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But the GCSE is not just restricted to these regions. It has an international presence in various countries of the world. Many students all over the world sit for the International GCSE examinations as well. It would not be an overstatement to say that this is the exam that can literally make or break your career.

The good news is that, a quick scan of the national examinations scores for 22nd August 2019 examination shows that overall grades are up. For maths, 71.5% of 16-year-olds (71.0% in 2018) got grade 4. The pass rate for 17-year olds was 21.6% (22.6%)

According to fft education data lab (a project funded by Nuffield Education), this is because those continuing in post-16 education who achieved a grade 3/D (specifically) in maths or English, must resit the subject, a few times over, if required. This means that those who will be retaking either subject are less likely to do well compared to the 16 year-olds appearing for the very first time.  More information on this can be found at:

The entry numbers were up for both subjects even for the age group of 16-year-olds , indicating that more and more students are appearing for the GCSE  The fft team analysis indicates that this could be because some independent schools are switching to GCSEs from international GCSEs, which don’t show up in these numbers.

According to SchoolsWeek, a well-known UK school magazine that has been reporting diligently on school policies and other matters for many years now says that , the data does clearly shows a rise in the top grades at GCSE maths this year. There were 7.2 % and 3.7% more awards given at grades 8 and 9 respectively. However, the proportion of grade 7’s has remained stable at 9.5 %. Grades 6 and 7 have seen a decline. Despite this, there is a strong increase in the proportion of grades awarded at a grade 4. 21.4 % of all results awarded at the pass mark, went up from 20.6 % last year.

The table below shows a comparison of the GCSE Maths Results between 2017-2019.

GCSE And Private Tutions

The rise could possibly be attributed to the kind of preparations that the students are undertaking to crack the GCSEs. In fact, I was stunned on reading an article on the BBC news website by Sean Coughan (published Dec, 2019), which reported  that Urswick school in Hackney was buying one-to-one lessons with its "pupil premium" money, given to schools to support disadvantaged pupils! The Assistant head, Naomi Dews said that her pupils should not miss out on private tuition available to richer families. "Why should they be penalised by where they're born?" she asked.

The SCHOOL’S maths department picks 35 students who would benefit from an hour per week of individual tuition, delivered in the school day through an online connection to tutors from the MyTutor firm. "It's a great help for some students with less confidence and resilience," says Ms Dews. "It's not a substitute for a teacher, but it has real advantages. "It's one to one, they can ask questions they want, they can go back to lessons they didn't understand," says Ms Dews.

But the National Education Union says schools "should not have to resort to using pupil premium money to provide tuition". The union's co-leader Kevin Courtney says that schools should have enough funding for their own staff, without having to use the pupil premium to buy in additional support.

Although, parents might pay for extra lessons for their children, it is unusual for a school to use its budget this way. According to research from the Sutton Trust education charity, 41% of pupils in London get private tuition. It is not surprising that London has the top figures for private tutors although this is not to say that other areas in the UK lag far behind. And an article in The Telegraph on 'Parents spend £6bn a year on private tuition in the UK' states: Parents spend £6bn a year on private tuition in the UK - with many saying it is a necessity they can barely afford.

An article in TES on 'Private Tuition' stated:

More than a quarter of 11 to 18-year-olds have had a private tutor at some point during their schooling, according to research published last year by Judy Ireson at the Institute of Education, London. But that estimate, based on a sample of 3,500 pupils, may be conservative: some children keep quiet about extra tuition, deeming it a mark of failure or "swottiness". There are also differences from region to region, and from school to school. The Institute of Education research, for example, found one school where 65 per cent of Year 11 pupils had used a private tutor. London is widely seen as the hotbed of home tutoring and anecdotal evidence suggests that in some schools in the capital, among children preparing for public examinations, the proportion having private tuition is close to 100 per cent.

More than a quarter of parents use private tutors to help boost their children's education, and said that schools provide "inadequate" support. An article in The Independent on 'How to succeed in Exams' has some feedback from students which was also very interesting.

One student shared, “Extra tuition in maths was critical for me. I got a lot of help on how to answer questions. I found exam technique a bit difficult. I also had help making sure I could understand things like Pythagoras' theorem and trigonometry.”

Whilst another student commented: “I got extra tuition in maths and it raised my grade from a D to a C. I want to work as a computer technician, and I wouldn't have had any hope of getting a job without it.

Students will of course need help with different aspects of their GCSE Maths preparation and it is up to the Maths tutors job to discover how best to help them.